Dynamiters’ Stuart motivated to keep building top program
By Emanuel Sequeira
“Jerry Bancks and the organization had already started making us an elite program, I’m just trying not to screw it up,” joked Derek Stuart, who took over from his former coach in 2016 and is working hard to build on it.
“If there is one area I think that is important to me as a coach is getting the buy-in from the players on the ice and off the ice. Doing what it takes to be a (Kimberley) Dynamiter and getting the true commitment from each player. Where the team becomes more important than the individual. That’s one thing we try to instil here and we’ve done a good job.”
Stuart, named the Eddie Mountain Division and Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) Coach of the Year for 2019-20, does what he can to help players who want to move, reach a higher level. It starts with the players, then he and his coaching staff do their part. They use their connections in other leagues, including junior A organizations in Western Canada.
Prior to coming to Kimberley, Stuart, 43, coached in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for six years. In that time the main thing he learned is how to run a program properly, and that was with James Poole when Stuart was with the Okotoks Oilers.
“You just try and run the program as best you can. Give the kids the things that they need and as well sometimes the things they just want,” said Stuart, who once played for the Dynamiters. “Our motto is to eliminate all the excuses for the players. We do that by taking them to the proper restaurants for a pre-game meal, and going to an opponent’s town a night early in a playoff round. Little things like that. Getting them prepared properly. Scouting other teams. By eliminating all excuses, it teaches the players to be accountable for their performance.”
Stuart also learned a lot from Bancks, the biggest being to care about the players.
“You show the players that you care about them and genuinely are interested in what they are doing, it makes it a lot easier for them to buy-in to what you are trying to get them to do,” explained Stuart, who after playing for the Dynamiters played a season for Bemidji State University (Minnesota) followed by three seasons in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference with Red Deer and Mount Royal College.
Stuart, who guided the Dynamiters to a KIJHL championship in 2018 and lost in 2019, keeps improving as a coach by taking courses, listening and learning from his assistants and other coaches. He borrows ideas from coaches to try and do what is best for the team.
When it comes to recruiting players into the program, Stuart wants people who want to compete and win. He sells players on their winning tradition, ability to move players on and their supportive fan base.
“The guys that do want to move on, we do everything we can to help them get noticed and promote them,” he said.
These are some of the players who have moved on during Stuart’s time in Kimberley: Nic Herringer (2016-17 – at University of Wisconsin-River Falls D3) and Nicholas Ketola (2016-18 – Bethel University D3), Matt Davies (2016-18 – University of Central Oklahoma), Brock Palmer (2017-2020 – University Las Vegas Nevada), Cody Campbell (2016-2018 – University of Central Oklahoma/SAIT) and Devon Lagelaar (2015-18 – University of Arizona) are playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Local products Caige Sterzer (2016-17 – Surrey/Alberni Valley – BCHL), Braiden Koran (2018-19 – Humboldt – SJHL) and Cam Reid (2019-20 – Cranbrook-BCHL) are playing at the junior A level.
Stuart added that now having the Cranbrook Bucks of the B.C. Hockey League nearby is a huge benefit for recruiting players.
He has enjoyed his time and role with the Dynamiters because of everyone he gets to work with as well as the players.
“It’s fun to come to the rink and go to work and board meetings,” he said. “Watching players improve and mature is definitely high on that list. Having the individual teams, as well, work hard and go through all the trials of the season and then have the chance at winning at the end of the regular season and playoffs has been an enjoyable time to watch.”
Lead image courtesy Syltography photo
Emanuel Sequeira is Director of Communications with the KIJHL